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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Monday, 7 September 2009
How much fitness and prior martial arts skills are needed to learn Wing Tsun Kung Fu?

"I need to get fit first." or "I need to build up my endurance."
This is the first of two very common misconceptions. The second one I have also experienced many times over the years: "I first want to get my black belt in ******** and then I want to learn Wing Tsun for self-defense, or because of the trapping techniques, etc."
 
Wing Tsun Kung Fu in action, www.wingtsunkungfu.comWhat's wrong with the first point (fitness, endurance)?
 
I do encourage everyone to get or stay fit. I am all for strength training, for doing weights, training with kettlebells especially. Shadowboxing? Working the wall bag? Great! Want to improve your cardio? Want to go jogging? Wonderful!
 
Yet, Wing Tsun requires a different usage of our muscles. Wing Tsun Chi-Sau for example, as practiced in my schools, creates a workout you absolutely can't get in any gym. Many guys (much stronger than me) have broken down in mere minutes, while we were training interestingly enough very slow and relaxed.
 
I often talk about having students who are physically much stronger, yet when they punch me, nothing happens. When I, in this case the physically weaker person, punch them only lightly, they fly against the wall or across the room.
That's when the head scratching starts. How can there be such a difference between physical strength and what I call Wing Tsun power?! Where does it come from?
And yes, I am also aware of the point that I am teaching and training Wing Tsun professionally 5, 6 days a week, which is besides the point, since it doesn't change the stronger-weaker situation.
 
The difference between being physically strong or having striking power, which can only be achieved through specific Wing Tsun training, makes it senseless to wait with the start of one's Wing Tsun training. It would only be a waste of our time, to wait longer.
Our life time is valuable, is something I often hear from people past the age of 40 or even 50, who start training with me. As long as one is around 20'ish, it doesn't seem so bad. Just wait ... :-)
 
At times people have come back after a period of heavy weight training. Yes, they were stronger, but usually also much stiffer, more tense than ever before.
Now they simply had to struggle with a different set of problems. The ones of this group, who actually started their Wing Tsun training sooner or later admitted, that they had missed crucial time and should have started Wing Tsun alongside their fitness training.
 
Regardless at which fitness or strength level, I use as explanation a particular example.
Imagine, visualize a scale. At one end of the scale we work on being strong, yet often end up being stiff and tense.
At the other end of this scale we try to relax, yet mostly end up being (relatively) weak or brittle.
Now, we want to take the strength, leaving "stiff" and "tense" behind. From the other end we take relaxation, leaving "weak" and "brittle" behind.
The right Wing Tsun training will enable us at our individual center of the scale, to meld strength and relaxation and learn to form Wing Tsun power!
Wing Tsun power is the result of using all muscle groups from fingers to toes in a fluid and elastic application, sometimes also described as whiplash-like power.
 
Does this example make sense to you?
 
Now, what about the second point: "I first want to get my black belt in ******** and then I want to learn Wing Tsun for self-defense, or because of the trapping techniques, etc."
 
Wing Tsun Kung Fu in action, www.wingtsunkungfu.comThe ideas behind Wing Tsun, the goals of a usable self-defense system are so different, yet often get mixed up through false perception due to movies, false marketing of martial arts schools etc., so that I wrote a whole book on that topic: "The Reality of Self-Defense! What martial arts schools won't tell you." Click here for reviews!
 
Many people have come back after having learned another martial art, only to realize that it was now even more difficult to learn Wing Tsun. Their responses had been pre-set, their thinking had changed. It would have been easier to start as beginner, as opposed to now first having to "empty the cup" and starting over.
 
If somebody has enough time and resources to train more than one martial art, OK, why not. But to learn Wing Tsun it is absolutely counter productive, to learn another martial art first. Wing Tsun is not a add-on.

 

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Posted by ralph haenel at 5:03 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 7 September 2009 7:32 PM PDT

Friday, 18 September 2009 - 4:12 PM PDT

Name: "Alex Wing Chun"
Home Page: http://www.wingchunpunch.com

Cool article Sifu Ralph -- I see it all the time and how people confuse gym trained strength & fitness with a more flexible, useable fitness that improves WingTsun and general fighting ability.

I've had other martial artists of so called hard styles laugh at our softer approach and assume that they are up to it.  It's always my pleasure when they struggle to sustain anything from poon sau to moderately explosive Chain Punches.

Best wishes.

Alex

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